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Slain father case turned over to jury

LAWRENCEVILLE - So wild was Mark Noble's desire to see his estranged son, he flew into a rage and beat his father's skull in when the elder declined to help him track the boy down, prosecutors believe.

Noble's defense attorney, Richard Grossman, doesn't see it that way. He argues that no scientific evidence directly ties his client to the killing, stressing that anyone could have entered the Norcross townhome the two men shared, beat the victim mercilessly and stuffed his body around a bathroom toilet on Christmas Eve 2006.

A jury is tasked with deciding who they think is right.

Deliberations in Noble's trial began about 3 p.m. Thursday, capping his relatively brief three-day murder trial.

Noble waived his right to testify, and his defense attorney called no witnesses.

Grossman argued the state's case was haphazardly thrown together, without diligent fingerprint testing of items allegedly used to bludgeon the victim, which included a fireplace poker, lamp and a small lion statue.

As an even-mannered, practicing Rastafarian and doting father, Noble isn't capable of such violence, Grossman said.

"It should trouble you that (Noble) did not receive the same measure of justice that you would expect for yourself," Grossman told the jury in closing arguments. "He doesn't know who did this. He can't tell you."

Prosecutors say Noble killed his accountant father, Rupert Noble, 59, stole his Honda Accord and fled Norcross for the Georgia mountains, possibly en route to see his young son, who was believed to be living with his mother in North Carolina. Authorities spotted Noble a few days after the killing in Gilmer County - about 90 miles north of Gwinnett - and arrested him for reportedly driving the Honda with stolen plates.

Noble is charged with murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and theft by taking. He faces life in prison.

Rich Vandever, Assistant District Attorney, said the theory that Rupert Noble was killed by a violent burglar doesn't make sense. The home showed no evidence of forced entry and no valuables were lifted, he said.

He pointed to another peculiar detail - that whoever dragged Rupert Noble's body from a living room to the bathroom was thoughtful enough to lay his head on a pillow, the kind of gesture a son might show his father, Vandever said.

"If this was a burglary," Vandever said, "would they even do that?"